In what was one of the most stunning twists in recent city council history, the Reno Aces' future now hangs in the air.
It began with the old city council wrapping up old business, which included a Waste Management Franchise agreement, a sales tax subsidy for Summit Sierra, and the SK Baseball Refinancing Deal. As usual, discussion of the SK Baseball deal turned ugly, pitting Jessica Ralston, Dwight Dortch and Sharon Zadra against Dan Gustin, the Mayor, Dave Aiazzi and Pierre Hascheff, who were all for the deal.
In a surprising genius move, Dortch and Zadra, citing Roberts' Rules of Order which states if you vote against the prevailing vote for a certain item, you cannot reconsider that item at a later date, both Dortch and Zadra voted FOR the baseball deal, even though they were adamantly against it, with plans to address it with the new council.
Dortch laid out a plan, predicting all of the new council members were against the baseball deal based on interviews with them during the election cycle. His plan, and Zadra's, was to bring the issue up again with the new council in the hopes the new city council would see the deal as too risky for the city's credit rating. They didn't waste any time, as it was one of the first items the new city council addressed.
So the deal passed, the Mayor had the papers right in front of him to sign, and after that, the new city council was sworn in.
Then, in one of the first items the new city council addressed, the contract was rescinded by the new city council, citing concerns to the City's credit rating if payments could not be made.
Poor bob Cashell was suddenly put in the minority vote as every single council member but him voted to put the brakes on the new Reno Aces deal. This isn't your ole' city council anymore.
Hillary Schieve, who I have already nicknamed The Voice of Reason, mentioned the deal should be put to the people for a vote.
City Attorney John Shipman gave some reason for concern....mainly Vadnais Heights, Minn., where the city council there agreed to stop making payments on its sports stadium which led to two major credit rating agencies downgrading the city’s formerly strong general obligation credit rating to junk status in September. If our city council commits its general funds to pay off a new bond payment, and then defaults on those, the same thing could happen. We also don't want a repeat of what happened to Schaumburg, IL, where attendance never really did recover after the Shaumburg Flyers were evicted after not paying rent, utilities, and other bills at the stadium. They have a new team, the Boomers, but fans were dealt a pretty hard blow. It's questionable if the Aces left Reno if we could secure a different team, and if that team would be as popular.
So now, the deal, and the future of the Reno Aces, hangs in the air. News 4 at Noon mentioned there are some lingering legal questions as to whether the new city council even had the right to do what they did.
Rescinding the deal doesn't mean the new council doesn't want to help the Reno Aces. Several of the new council members said this gives them the opportunity to step back and re-examine the deal, and what the city might be capable of doing.
I hope a new deal can be passed that doesn't put the city at quite so much risk...because I definitely don't want to see the Reno Aces leave, or a perpetually empty stadium in east downtown. Let's not forget there are TONS of businesses in town right now not meeting projected revenues, and Herb Simon IS in a position to solve all of this simply by writing a check. Let's face it, he's one of the richest men in the country.
Basin Street Properties keeps mentioning at every council meeting they are on the verge of securing $25,000,000 in financing to finally build the proposed Marriott hotel in the vacant space next to the Jones Vargus Tower, across the street from the Ballpark. Per their testimony to city council, the Aces leaving would devastate that deal. That would definitely not be good. The Reno Aces have had a substantial economic impact for the city, and they are Triple AAA Champions, which does promote the Reno brand. And there's no doubt the Reno Aces have brought a family atmosphere downtown. Plus, the stadium employs both directly and indirectly, hundreds of employees.
While this RGJ Editorial mentions the "actual" obligation from the city out of the general fund for the annual $1 million payment would only be $150,000, because $100,000 would come from the RDA and the remaining $750,000 would have gone to pay off a $10 million fire station loan, there is still a big difference in paying off a $10 million fire station loan, and paying the Reno Aces $30,000,000 over a 30 year period, and eventually in the future, there comes a point where the City would have successfully paid off the $10 million loan, yet instead must continue paying $750,000-$1 million a year for a much longer period (30 years). The fact remains this city was thrown into a recession, perhaps one of the worst in the country, and there's a REASON why the city hasn't been able to make its payments to the Aces.
One thing is for certain: SK Baseball may have to approach this deal in a very different way, now that we have a city council with zero ties to any of the previous deals made by the old guarde, and zero emotional ties to the development of the ballpark itself.
For me personally, I love the Reno Aces, and I love the atmosphere in east downtown the stadium provides, and my nieces love to go to Aces games. So I would like to find out a way to help them stay.